The genders of French nouns are hard to guess, when you learn a new noun, don’t forget to learn its gender. This why you should always learn the noun with its article : le cahier (the notebook) ; la maison (the house). Gender of nouns starting with a vowel need to be memorized separately: l’âge (m.) (age) ; l’horloge (f.) (the clock). Fortunately, several rules can help you guess if a French noun is masculine or feminine :
1 – Nouns that refer to males are usually masculine, nouns that refer to females are usually feminine : l’homme (m.) (the man) ; la femme (f.) (the woman).
2 – The ending of a noun can be a clue to its gender. For example :
-eau : le bureau (the office or the desk) ; le château (the castle)
-isme : le tourisme (tourism)
-ment : le département (the department) ; le parlement (the parliament)
-ence : l’absence (absence) ; l’innocence (innocence)
-ée : une poupée (a doll)
-ie : la tragédie (tragedy)
-ion : la nation (the nation) ; la prononciation (pronunciation)
-té : l’université (university)
-ure : la littérature (literature)
Watch out for exceptions : l’eau (f.) (water) ; la peau (skin) ; le silence (silence).
3 – Nouns adopted from other language are usually masculine : le football, le jazz, le tennis.
4 – Some nouns referring to people indicate gender by their ending. The feminine form usually ends in -e :
l’Allemand (m.) l’Allemande (f.) the German
l’Américain (m.) l’Américaine (f.) the American
le Français (m.) la Française (f.) the French
l’ami (m.) l’amie (f.) the friend
le voisin (m.) la voisine (f.) the neighbor
Note that final d, n and s are silent in the masculine form, as in the examples above. When followed by -e in the feminine form d, n and s are pronounced.
5 – Some nouns that end in -e and the names of some professions have only one singular form, used to refer to both males and females. In this case, the article remains the same whether the actual person is male or female :
l’auteur (m.) the author
l’écrivain (m.) the writer
le médecin the doctor
la personne the person
le professeur the teacher / professor
6 – For certain nouns referring to people, the gender of the individual is sometimes indicated by the article alone. Such nouns most often end in -e, in this case, the spelling of the noun does not change when the gender changes :
le camarade (m.) la camarade (f.) the classmate
le journaliste (m.) la journaliste (f.) the journalist
le secrétaire (m.) la secrétaire (f.) the secretary
le touriste (m.) la touriste (f.) the tourist